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A River Cruise Experience Through A Customers Eyes.

RHINE CRUISE -  MICHAEL ABBOTT

The early morning mist lay heavy on the water creating a silent eerie feeling.  A sudden break momentarily revealed the Drachenfels Castle seemly hovering low in the sky.  The castle was built in the 12th  century by the Archbishops of Cologne.  German folk law records that a dragon was supposed to shelter in a cave below the castle, but its reign of terror was brought to an end by the heroic feats of Siegfried.

I was on board MS Alegria cruising the Rhine river and heading south towards the towns of Remagen (famous bridge of the second world war), Koblenz and the many magnificent castles between Boppard and Rudesheim. 

I have discovered the Alegria at the Disability Road Show earlier in the year.  One of the many exhibits was an activities area promoting disabled peoples’ inclusion in sporting and recreational pursuits, of which holidays was one. Accessible Travel and Leisure (ATL) were offering a week afloat on a fully accessible boat.  As a wheelchair user, past experience had taught me to accept such declarations with both caution and scepticism, but the prospect was most enticing.

Enquiries to Accessible Travel gradually removed my concerns.  Travel to our starting point of the cruise in Dusseldorf was by means of a coach with a wheelchair lift. The Alegria has three lifts, one of which went to the ‘sun deck’, the only boat in the European river cruising market to have such a facility.  Enquiries to other leading tour operators confirm this to be so. 

I had the privilege of sharing my week with 60 other disabled people and their wives, husbands, partners and carers.  All cabins on the boat are wheelchair accessible meeting shower and bathroom needs. There are also two bathrooms on the Salon deck with ample space for wheelchairs and scooters.  Many past concerns had become entrenched through the inability of tour companies to provide my inclusion in excursions.  This usually began at the outset, where the coach taking you to the venue was often inaccessible to a wheelchair user.  But, ATL had kept our original travelling coaches, these following us over the entire holiday. A simple and practical solution to a previously insurmountable problem. 

This was typical ATL positive approach to ‘enabling’ which characterised the entire holiday.  A thoroughly enjoyable experience, which included good company, fine food, beautiful sunny weather, helpful and knowledgeable  ATL representatives and travel guides, including all members of the crew of MS Alegria.  So much so, we have booked another trip to the Dutch Bulbfields, and have every confidence this will also be a great holiday.

Without ATL having the foresight and interest in providing holidays for all types of disabilities this memorable week would not have been possible and I am pleased to have supported their lead.

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